BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN –The education ministry is drafting digital literacy standards that will train students on using technology from a young age, its minister told Legislative Council (LegCo) members on Saturday.

The digital literacy standards will be incorporated in the latest curriculum to equip pupils with skills relevant in the 21st century, said YB Dato Paduka Hj Hamzah Hj Sulaiman.

It will focus on ‘early digital citizenship’ for pre-school students up to Year Two, ‘digital citizenship’ for Year Three students and above, ‘digital creativity’ for Year Five students and above and ‘digital competitiveness’ for Year Seven students and above.

The minister did not provide a time frame on the implementation of the digital literacy standards.

During a closed-door meeting with LegCo members at the ministry, he said uncertainties arising from the COVID-19 pandemic meant that students need to be equipped with digital skills.

Teachers must be trained in digital teaching methods so that they can deliver the teaching of these skills effectively, he added.

YB Dato Hj Hamzah said measures are taken to help teachers cope with changes in digital teaching delivery.

Through the Brunei Darussalam Academy of Leaders and Teachers, professional development initiatives such as the Technologically Enhanced Learning Environment have been introduced to increase teachers’ digital readiness, especially their ability to teach online.

Last year, the ministry provided a virtual Teachers’ Lounge and School Leaders’ Lounge — a platform for sharing and accessing digital resources and best practices in education.

Legco member YB Siti Rozaimeriyanty speaks at the closed-door dialogue with the Ministry of Education. Photo: Courtesy of MoE

‘COVID-19 prompts rethink of education’

YB Dato Hj Hamzah said the COVID-19 pandemic has brought enormous and unexpected challenges to all sectors including education.

The education ministry needs to take strategic steps on turning the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity in developing an education system capable of producing resilient, creative and future-ready human capital, he said.

Students had started home-based learning on March 30 last year as schools remained shut for more than three months until they were partially reopened on June 2.

All schools, including tertiary education institutions, resumed full operations in the final phase of the country’s de-escalation plan last July.

The ministry worked with the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications and telcos to provide devices and internet access in supporting pupils’ digital learning needs.

A total of 1,696 units of computers were donated to students under the ICT donation drive.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the need to equip schools with infrastructure and technology, and provide teachers and students with the skills needed in a digital environment.

“Indirectly, this pandemic has prompted education systems around the world to rethink  existing planning on digital transformation in response to new norms in education delivery,” added the minister.

A Dato Ratna Hj Muhammad Jaafar Kiarong Primary School pupil wears a face mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Yusri Adanan/The Scoop

Preparing students for employment

YB Dato Hj Hamzah said his ministry is working with the Manpower Planning and Employment Council to improve graduates’ employability.

More students are studying at Politeknik Brunei and Brunei Institute of Technical Education while admissions are becoming increasingly competitive every year, he said.

The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Centre (EIC) has also been established to enhance the entrepreneurial skills and innovation of students.

“This is not only important in their development as digital citizens but also gives them basic knowledge of entrepreneurship.

“In the long run, this knowledge and skills will prove to be very valuable and hopefully help them adapt to innovative entrepreneurial practices as their source of income later,” the minister said.

To ensure a safe and conducing learning environment, the ministry has also extended its facilities management project to primary and secondary schools as well as sixth form centres nationwide.

YB Dato Hj Hamzah said the project generated employment opportunities for locals in management, technical and administrative work as well as cleaning services.